Saturday, 20 November 2010

Online Music Journalism: Avon Calling 2 album review

Published on live-music-scene, Aug 2010
Various - Avon Calling 2

Various - Avon Calling 2

When John Peel describes an album as “truly superb, the compilation that all others should be judged by”, people prick up their ears. They know that they need to listen. This was the first ‘Avon Calling’ record, a Bristolian compilation put together in 1979, designed to Bristol on the musical map.

Heartbeat Records was the driving force behind the project, laying claim to being Bristol’s first independent record label. Now, their archives have been raided by Bristol Archive Records and ‘Avon Calling 2’ is being released in recognition and celebration of hidden gems that have been locked in the vaults for over thirty years.

The sequel certainly does have a vintage sound to it, distinctive even to the uninformed ear. Whereas today a local indie compilation may conjure up stereotypes involving rebellious fourteen year-olds trying to prove themselves through the medium of volume, this venture really does exhibit local talent and not local wannabes. Discipline, self-control and genuine flair coincide over twenty artistically crafted tracks, sparing the listener noisy pacts of angst.

Social Security has the duty of opening the album with ‘Self Confession’, a track with a raw, tinny quality that must surely be genuine garage rock. This settles down into a comfortable rhythm that knowingly echoes the gentle punk style of The Clash. What follows is a pleasing combination of the two most influential genres of the time. Some contributors are still in the clutches of the psychedelic sixties and early seventies, while others have got over the LSD and tie-dye, opting to join the spit and studs of the punk generation.

Sneak Preview’s ‘Mr Magoo’ is on the verge of a Stranglers number, whilst the likes of Sean Ryan harks back to The Doors, Syd Barrett and early Status Quo. ‘Middle of Nowhere’ is another highlight; Stereo Models create an inviting sound that could have been the long lost bonus track from the ‘Easy Rider’ soundtrack. Think summer, think open roads, think sleeping al fresco beside your Harley off the M4 somewhere between Downend and Sodbury. Feel good vibes reverberate from this sun and oil soaked song.

Stereo Models in fact sum up the entire album. Sure, ‘Avon Calling 2’ is an independent effort, full of small-time bands that fizzled out years ago… but that doesn’t matter. The musicians are largely as capable as any rock legend fortunate enough to have hit the top and the album’s sound is so much cleaner than any contemporary indie product. Whereas it is now trendy to obscure chords and melodies with whining feedback and strained screams, to fashionably deviate from simple, perhaps even - shock, horror - catchy tunes, the bands collected on this single disc evidently strove for quality. ‘Avon Calling 2’ is an extremely accessible representative of the Bristol music scene, and everyone is able to find their own retro favourites.

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